July 5, 2017
By Nathalie Nhụy Nguyễn
1. Blogger Mother Mushroom Sentenced to 10 Years in Prison
Prominent blogger Nguyễn Ngọc Như Quỳnh, known by the pen name Mẹ Nấm, or Mother Mushroom, has been sentenced to 10 years in prison. The 37-year-old stood trial on Thursday on charges of ‘conducting propaganda against the state’ under Article 88 of the Penal Code.
Qùynh was arrested and taken into police custody in October of last year. Authorities and state media say Qùynh used her personal Facebook to disseminate untrue information, and defamed the government and its policies. They also cited her work to document cases of civilians killed while in police custody.
Quỳnh’s mother, Nguyễn Thị Tuyết Lan, told the online citizen journalism blog Dân Làm Báo that Quỳnh has no regrets. In their last conversation before the trial, she reportedly told her mother:
- “I apologize to you and my two children for what I have done to cause our separation but I do not regret the things I have stood for. And if given the same chance, I will do so again”
Quỳnh’s mother says she plans to appeal the court’s decision.
2. Top Officials Who Handled Formosa Toxic Spill Are Getting Demoted and Dismissed
More than one year after a toxic industrial spill killed tons of fish and marine life in Central Việt Nam, some top environmental officials are finally facing the music. Earlier this month the chief inspector of the environment administration, Lương Duy Hanh, was demoted for a lack of oversight that led to the worst environmental disaster in Việt Nam’s history in April of last year.
According to state-owned Thanh Niên, Communist Party inspectors called it a “serious violation” and said he “failed to advise and supervise the implementation of environmental protection units during the construction and trial operation of Formosa.”
Along with Hanh, several other government officials at various levels have been removed from their positions and reassigned.
Local media reports that the government gave Formosa permission to restart its operations last month. Officials said the company is now in compliance with its regulations.
3. Vinasun Taxi Drivers Want to Protest Uber and Grab
As the rise of app-controlled ride-hailing services like Uber and Grab grow rapidly, traditional taxi companies have suffered. Over 10,000 Vinasun taxi drivers recently signed a petition asking for permission to protest against services provided by Uber and Grab, tuoitrenews reports. They complain that Uber and Grab operate under different fares and taxes than the traditional taxi companies.
In an interview with Zing.vn, Vice director of Vinasun, Tạ Long Hỷ said, “It doesn’t matter how much we try to upgrade our service, it’s impossible for us to compete with this kind of competition. Because they use their money to gain leverage, so it’s impossible to compete with upgraded services. With money as the financial cushion, they accept financial loss to push the other competitors out of the business. Until the other businesses die. So this is not competition, but a form of elimination.”
The government recently decided to prohibitthe new carpooling services provided by Uber and Grab that were just launched this summer, according to VNExpress. Authorities say the move is meant to protect passengers.
4. China Ditches Meeting with Việt Nam After Territorial Dispute Talk
Senior military officials from China and Việt Nam had scheduled several days of meetings aimed at strengthening relationships in late June. But the Vietnam-China Border Defense Friendship Exchange Program, as the gathering is called, was abruptly cancelled. The New York Times writes that according to analysts citing government sources, the Chinese delegation had cut the trip short “after tempers flared during a closed-door discussion on disputed territories in the South China Sea.”
China is asserting sovereignty over a vast swath of reefs and islands in the South China sea with Việt Nam, among several other countries, laying competing claims.
Although China and Việt Nam are partners in trade and ideology, tensions have simmered for years over the territorial dispute and reached a fever pitch in 2014 when China moved an oil rig near the Paracel Islands.
5. Expelled Educator and Activist Vows To Fight On
Professor Phạm Minh Hoàng has been exiled to France after security police took him away from his home in Sài Gòn on June 23 without warning. He was held in detention for 24 hours, and then forcibly expelled the next day, without a chance to say goodbye to his family.
Phạm Minh Hoàng is a former prisoner of conscience, mathematics professor, and blogger with dual French-Vietnamese citizenship. An activist with pro-democracy party Việt Tân, he had returned to his home country in 2000. In June, a letter signed by President Trần Đại Quang informed him that his Vietnamese citizenship had suddenly been revoked.
Upon landing in Paris, Hoàng gave an emotional testimony to supporters greeting him at the airport.
- “I have been through a very tough month of June, but I think that our future, the future of Việt Nam lays in front of us, and I will do everything in my power to fulfill a dream of mine to return to Việt Nam under better circumstances than today. I want to thank everyone, near and far, for your support in our fight for our country, for democracy and freedom. Thank you.”